Tehran’s city council accepted former Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi’s resignation at an April 10 meeting, and appointed his deputy, Samiollah Hosseini Makarem, as acting mayor, Iranian news agencies reported.
According to Fars News Agency, Makarem was voted acting mayor by the council with 14 out of 21 votes in his favor.
Tasnim news agency says Makarem is an economist who worked before as deputy mayor for investment and deputy chairman of Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization, and director-general for budget at the Ministry of Education.
This was Najafi’s second attempt to resign as mayor.He sent a letter of resignation to the city council in mid-March, but his resignation was rejected by the council at their April 8 meeting. He resigned for a second time April 9 after hardline Prosecutor-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri blatantly threatened him in the press, stating “Resign and you won’t be prosecuted.”
Although Najafi has always maintained he was stepping down due to a recently diagnosed illness, some council members insisted that the mayor was being forced out by his political opponents.
“Now pressures are being exerted on the mayor openly,” said council member Zahra Sadrazam Nouri following Montazeri’s promise that the mayor could avoid prosecution by stepping down.
Several Iranian news websites have also reported that Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) intelligence organizations were pressuring Najafi to resign.
If true, the allegations that Najafi was pressured to resign by the IRGC and judiciary would be in line with traditional political rivalries between Iran’s two main political factions, the hardliners and the reformists.
All the 21 members of the Tehran City Council are reformist figures, and Najafi is a member of the centrist Executives of Construction party, which is part of the reform camp. Najafi’s main opponents are from the hardline-controlled judiciary.
During his seven months in office as Tehran’s mayor, Najafi repeatedly spoke about “widespread illegal actions” carried out under the conservative former Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. Najafi and other members of the city council reported about billions of dollars in city debt, corruption and illegal transfer of city rela estate to individuals.
Tehran’s hardline Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi then challenged Najafi to present his evidence to the prosecutor’s office “immediately.”
Then, the judiciary began pressuring the mayor. Dolatabadi summoned Najafi to court in mid-March after a video was released on social media showing Najafi at an International Women’s Day ceremony where young girls were performing a dance as part of the festivities.
Council members including Morteza Alviri and Zahra Sadrazam Nouri said the prosecutor’s office treated Najafi inappropriately.
“I kept silent in the face of threats and insults in order to reform a corrupt system,” Najafi said at an April 8 city council meeting, adding, “most of the attacks targeted me, and finally one of those hit me hard.”
Iran’s conservatives controlled the Tehran City Council for 14 years between 2003 and 2017. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the first Tehran Mayor elected by a conservative council in 2003. He took over as the country’s president within two years.
Qalibaf, who was defeated in the 2005 presidential election, took over as Tehran’s mayor in 2005, although he kept trying his luck as a presidential candidate in 2013 and 2017. His term as mayor came to an end with reformist faction’s overwhelming victory in the council elections in March 2017, and Najafi replaced him in August.